By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – I John 4:7-8
February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Thus, February is popularly regarded as love month. There are many different stories about the origin of this celebration. But in any case, it is a time for us to reflect and celebrate the meaning of love. It is also significant to note that we are also celebrating the start of the Lenten Season this year in this Month of February. There is no point of our celebration of Lenten Season other than the love of God that takes away the sins of the world.
Our love must be patterned after God’s love. The word love is oftentimes misused or abused. That’s why the writer of I Timothy even said in his letter that the love of money is the root of all evil (cf. I Tim. 6:10).
To understand our text taken from John’s letter, we have to look into the situation of the Johannine Church. John’s church was divided due to doctrinal differences. This is the problem if and when doctrines are deified. Instead of becoming instruments of unity, they would rather become source of divisions.
Those who left the Johannine Church later on believed that Jesus Christ is divine but not human. The members of this group were Gnostic Christians. Before they became Christians, they belonged to a philosophical religion called Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that anything material is evil. Hence, when they became Christians they could not accept that Jesus Christ is truly human, for in that case he must be evil then. On the other hand, those who remained in the church were Jewish Christians who affirmed John’s teaching that Christ is incarnate God (cf. Jn. 1), truly human and truly divine.
But the problem was what started as a doctrinal issue became an ethical issue. They began accusing each other of having no spirit at all or being an anti-Christ (cf. I Jn. 4:1-3). They wouldn’t greet each other anymore. This was the reason why the Writer of I John said in his letter: “Let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I Jn. 4:7-8).
God’s Love forgives
Love is the very nature of God. And anyone who loves God must also love his fellow human being. In other words, love is also the very nature of genuine believers. God’s love has been concretely shown to us in and through the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hence, if we want to know what God’s love is all about, we have to look into Jesus’ life and ministry.
There are at least three characteristics of God’s love that I would like to emphasize. First of all, God’s love in Christ Jesus forgives. Apostle Paul said in his Letter to the Corinthians, “Love does not keep a record of wrongs” (I Cor. 13:5-6).
In Jesus’ time sin was understood as the cause of illness. If a person got sick, he must have sinned against God. Thus, whenever Jesus cured a sick person, he would always say: “Your sin has been forgiven” (cf. Lk. 5:17-26). But then, he was being criticized by the Scribes and Pharisees, because for them only God can forgive sins. However, for Jesus Christ our Lord anyone who experienced God’s forgiveness must forgive others also. That’s why the Writer of I John said to his church members, “We must love each other, because God is love.” We must forgive each other because God’s love forgives.
God’s Love is compassionate
Moreover, God’s love in Christ Jesus is compassionate. Again, Apostle Paul said in his Letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient and kind” (I Cor. 13:4). Jesus Christ our Lord genuinely served the marginalized sector of his society, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He felt a deep compassion for them.
In Jesus’ time, to be holy was to separate oneself from the people, especially the poor and the sinners. That’s why those who were regarded “holy” like the Scribes and Pharisees were far from the people. They would not mingle themselves with them. Hence, they criticized Jesus when they saw him eating with tax collectors.
But for Jesus Christ our Lord, to be holy is to have compassion for the people. Genuine holiness is to be with the people, especially the poor and the sinners, in order to give them hope and new life. Jesus said, “Blessed are you poor for the Kingdom of God is yours” (Lk. 6:20).
God’s Love is eternal
Finally, God’s love in Christ Jesus is eternal. In his Letter to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul said, “Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail” (I Cor. 13:7-8). To the Romans, he also wrote: “There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
Jesus Christ our Lord was betrayed and left alone by the disciples whom he taught and loved. The people whom he served shouted that he must be crucified. The powers-that-be plotted against him. He finally died on the cross, but God raised him from death to show us that God’s love can never be hindered even by death.
The reason why the Christian movement continues, in spite of dissensions and divisions like what happened to the Johannine Church, is precisely because God’s love in Christ Jesus is eternal. # nordis.net